Puritas Springs Park
Puritas Springs was the creation of a group of businessmen who wanted to promote ridership on the Cleveland, Berea, Elyria & Oberlin Railway, an interurban railway line. The company took notice of the beautiful hillside overlooking Rocky River Valley at the corner of Grayton and Linndale Roads, and the mineral springs which flowed there. In 1894 the company began buying land along the north side of Linndale Road in order to gain access to the springs.
The railway company capitalized on the springs by bottling and selling the mineral water. Many preferred it to city water supplied from Lake Erie which was considered unsafe. The name Puritas Springs, based on a Latin phrase meaning “pure springs,” was created by the railway company for marketing purposes. The name stuck and within a few years what had been known as Linndale Road was officially being called Puritas Springs Road, and is still called Puritas Avenue today.
However, the plan all along was to establish a park on the site and gain new customers by running their railway line to the park gates. Such a park was called a "trolley park."
The concept of a trolley park was simple: a railway company would establish a park with recreation facilities - often a picnic grove or dance hall - at the end of their rail line. In order to get to the park, the public had to travel on company rails. This not only increased ridership but gave the public a reason to ride the cars on the weekend. This meant more money in the fare box. Since the company owned the park, money spent on entertainment and food also went into the company coffers. There was a legitimate need for public recreation and the railway lines found a profitable way to meet that need.
In January, 1899, Albert E. Akins, vice president of the railway line, put it this way: “I have long thought that spot (Puritas Springs) would be ideal . . . for a summer resort . . . A resort at that point would draw crowds from Cleveland, Berea, Elyria, Oberlin and surrounding towns. . . . The site at the springs is one of the beauty spots in the country. Few Cleveland people know the beauties of the place.”
Puritas Springs Park opened in late spring or early summer of 1900. It makes a lot of sense to consider June 10th, 1900 – the day the rails of the Cleveland, Berea, Elyria and Oberlin Railway first opened to the park gates – as the unofficial opening day of Puritas Spring Park.
The entertainment at Puritas Springs Park during its early years was consistent with the times but unlike a modern amusement park. The atmosphere was more like a family, church, or company picnic. The facilities included a picnic grounds with tables and swings, baseball fields, a dance hall and pavilion, a restaurant, modern telephone service, sanitary stations, electric lights and a free campground. There were also Shetland pony rides to amuse the children.
Although the merry-go-round, Ferris Wheel, and roller coaster existed in the early 1900s, they had not yet become fixtures at every successful park. A simple picnic ground, dance hall, and athletic field, set in scenic surroundings, made for a grand time and a popular park. However, later in the century, starting in about 1915, Puritas Springs would develop into a classic example of a Golden Age amusement park complete with mechanized thrill rides.
Many sources incorrectly credit John E. Gooding as the founder and original developer of Puritas Springs Park, stating he came to the park as early as 1898. Our own research reveals John Gooding was not involved with Puritas Springs until about 1908 when he managed the park for the railway company. He may have also begun setting up a merry-go-round and a few other mechanized rides at that time.
However, John Gooding become sole owner of Puritas Springs in 1915 when he bought the park outright from the railway company. He soon moved his family onto the grounds and spent the rest of his life there developing the park. He died in 1936 but the park continued to be operated by his daughter and grandchildren until 1958.
In 1922, Gooding had a huge enclosed roller skating rink built at the north end of the park, with live music provided by a $20,000 Wurlitzer band organ. Many local residents can trace their very existence to their parents' first meeting at the extremely popular Puritas roller rink.
In 1927 John Gooding hired coaster designer John Miller to construct a roller coaster at the park. Miller was known for very fast coasters with horizontal and vertical curves, and particularly steep drops. The Cyclone roller coaster officially opened on June 10th, 1928.
The Cyclone Roller Coaster was the park’s star attraction. It was a wooden “ravine roller coaster” which used the trees and terrain at the edge of Rocky River Valley to intensify the hills, turns, and dips. By all accounts it was a fantastic coaster and would still be World Class if it existed today.
Rumors and unsupported claims abound that the Cyclone was exceedingly fast and dangerous, with a top speed as high as 80 miles per hour. There are tales of cars flying off the track, careening down into Rocky River Valley and carrying many riders to their death. These accounts are false.
A thorough study undertaken for the book One Minute To Puritas Springs Park: Sixty Years of Fun on Cleveland’s West Side, published in 2011, indicates the top speed descending the first hill was 50 to 55 miles per hour. For the rest of the ride, it traveled about 35 to 40 miles per hour. The authors also determined only one person died while riding the Cyclone. In 1953, a deeply inebriated 21 year-old man fell from the lead car to his death. He may have been trying to climb from one car to another when he fell.
However, the Cyclone’s sharp drop and sudden ascent out of the first hill apparently contributed to at least one person severely injuring their back. Subsequently, a number of people also filed lawsuits claiming identical injuries. As a result, in 1946 the track at the bottom of the first hill was altered to reduce the angle of drop and ascent.
Puritas Springs was home to three dance halls during its nearly 60 years of operation. The first opened in 1900 and burned in 1910. The second and most impressive dance hall opened in 1911. It was an enormous rectangular wood-frame building with a high ceiling, hanging lamps, a bandstand, and a second-story interior balcony overlooking the polished-wood dance floor. Many big name bands and musicians appeared there, including Paul Whiteman, Jimmy Dorsey, Les Brown, Kay Kyser, Tommy Dorsey, and Artie Shaw. This second dance hall burned down in 1946 in a spectacular fire.
A third dance hall was built but it was an open-air structure providing nothing more than a roof and a platform. For all intents and purposes, the destruction of the second dance hall in 1946 marked the end of the dance hall era at Puritas Springs.’’
Through the years, the park offered many traditional amusement park rides including the Roll-O-Plane, Bug, Flying Scooters, Rocket Ship ride, Dodgems, Rock-O-Plane, The Whip, Old Mill ride, Comet Junior roller coaster, Tilt-A-Whirl and Moon Rocket ride.
Puritas Springs drew crowds for decades but the magnetism began to fade after World War Two. Increasing insurance costs, limited expansion space, and encroaching residential development all played a part in the Gooding Family’s decision to sell the park to a land development company in 1958.
Puritas Springs Park did not close because it was destroyed by fire. The park had already been closed for months when, on the night of May 9, 1959, a fire of undetermined origin swept through the main section of the empty park. Thousands of nearby residents gathered to watch the flames shooting up into the night sky. The blaze left no doubt Puritas Springs was gone forever.
For more photos and history of the area visit westparkhistory.com
Go to YouTube to see videos (home movies transferred to video) of Puritas Springs Park. (These are independent of this site.):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n5g1LnOO-3g (9 minutes, 45seconds) - Undated. Two segments taken at different times.
(1 minutes,:50 seconds) - from 1952.
of Puritas Springs Park Roller Rink
Rare color photograph of the Puritas Springs Park billboard that reportedly
stood near the SW corner of Puritas Road and Rocky River Drive.
Ken Dombey (1905-1991) was the popular organist at the park roller rink.
Courtesy of Kenneth Dombey, Jr.
As kids one of our great passions was roller skating. The sandstone sidewalks along West 150th Street wore out more steel wheels on our strap-on skates than we cared to count, but that was small cost compared to the great fun we had.
Years later at Euclid Beach I heard the organ music from the park skating rink and, even as a teenager, was smitten by the great variety of attractive melodies. But it was not until my late teens I discovered Puritas Springs Park. And a fantastic discovery it was! I couldn't wait to buy a pair of rink skates to see if I still had some of the old magic or would have to learn to skate all over again.
At Puritas Springs I found Ken Dombey's organ music superb. After I got to know him I also found Ken was a great guy to call a friend.
I eventually learned many of the specialty skate programs and began making new friends to skate them with. The atmosphere was so friendly and light-hearted you couldn't help wanting to be part of the whole program.
Puritas had a smaller rink railed off in the center where less skillful skaters practiced their moves, out of the way of those on the main floor. But when Ken started playing one of his fast paced swing numbers, the center rink exploded with enthusiastic "flea hopping" daredevils who started a follow-the-leader chain around the inside of the railing, arms and legs flailing, every one hooting and cheering, wild but very precise, a breathtaking scene but not for inexperienced or faint-hearted skaters.
After Ken wore out the hoppers with a long spell of inspired swing music, he quieted the place down with one of his signature circle waltz numbers like "Sleepy Lagoon." Skaters would roll out onto the main floor to join their partners in a romantic waltz as the lights dimmed to set the mood.
Next an "all skate" would be called and Ken would launch into "Sweet Eloise," a sprightly number but not too fast. Skaters of all skill levels joined in, some flea hopping, some skating double, some trios, some going single at 50 mph in a 35 zone!
Ah, but Jerry the guard was on the floor, skating backwards, his whistle clamped in his teeth, his finger pointing at an offending speeder as he kept order. Everybody liked Jerry, who was about 50 but still one of the gang.
One young lady was often in Jerry's sights because of her desire to burn up the floor. Even though I wasn't too happy with speed skaters, I was captivated by her style and daring. I decided to ask her for the next circle waltz. She said she really didn't now how but she would try. I told her I would be glad to help her with the steps. Twice around the rink and we were an experienced couple. She told me her name was Jean James and that she lived in Brooklyn, Ohio.
To make a long story short, in 1997 Jean and I celebrated 53 years of marriage together with our four great kids. All thanks to Puritas Springs Skating Rink!
Neighborhood Couple Remembers 1959 Puritas Springs Park Fire
Mr. & Mrs. Frank C. Osborn, Jr. lived in their home at 18908 Puritas Avenue from 1956 to 1995. Janet, who grew up in West Park, remembers being home that Saturday evening with her husband and 2-year-old daughter Marguerite. Recalls Janet, “You should have seen the line of cars passing our house to see the fire! People were parking in our driveway, then walking down to Puritas Springs for a close-up look.” Frank captured the drama of the blaze with his camera and has shared this stunning image with us, 50 years later.
— Dar McGeady
"My brother Doug and I skated at the Puritas Springs Roller Rink from 1949 to around 1954. It was a wonderful time in my life with Ken Dombey's music and the fun we had dancing and doing the crazy things we did. I made a lot of friends whom I've now lost touch with. I would like to hear from them and find out how life has treated them."
--- William Steiskal, Big Pine Key, FL. 27 July 2009
Puritas Springs also had games of chance. Although I didn't have a lot of money, I splurged and played the ring toss game. Unbelievably my wooden ring landed on the best prize they had, a wrist watch! I had been begging for one for a while. The rule was you could take the watch or select any other prize on the board. Of course the carny tried to steer me to a cheap kazoo or plastic toy gun but I would have none of it. I thought wearing that huge watch impressed everyone. My mom got me a Spiedel "Twist-o-Flex" band (you could tie it in a knot) to replace the leather band.
To make a long story short, I've gone through quite a few watches since that day, some expensive, but I still have the watch I won at Puritas Springs. Every year or two I find it in my drawer and wind it. And it still keeps time!"
--- Doug Viant, Galloway, OH. 4 March 2009
started skating at Puritas Springs around 1940 before the war. My
skating partners were Jean Miller, who lived near Kamm's Corner, and
Shirley Finney whose dad was a high school teacher at West Tech.
Shirley also played the organ sometimes with Ken Dombey. Another
partner was Jean Colliers whose dad was a railroad engineer at the
Linndale transfer station.
--- John W. Koglman, Lorain, OH. 28 February 2009
Puritas Springs Park was my second home. When I was 15 my parents gave me a pair of very good boot skates for Christmas. It's the best gift I've ever had because it introduced me to skating, to Puritas Springs skating rink, and to my husband who is now deceased. The memory of our years skating together will be with me forever.
I spent so much time roller-skating at Puritas Springs that Ken Dombey, the park organist, stopped to pick me up to head for the rink whenever I called. He became such a good friend my folks invited him to attend my birthday party one year and we all ended up at the skating rink. I always left my skates at the rink, under the counter, because I went so often and never to another rink. Skate waltz, fox trot, tango and jitterbug were all part of my life. I also remember the "line jitterbug" that a bunch of us would form when Ken's organ music got really jazzy.
Those memories will be with me until the end. After Don Mader and I were married, he was in the Army so we moved from camp to camp until he went overseas. I followed him as long as I could and we took our skates for a short time but there was never the opportunity to use them. I finally had to admit I was not in condition to put them on again and I gave them up. How sad that day was.
I am now 85 years old and the memory of those years still makes me some long to put my skates on and try again. After a hip replacement a few years ago I put that out of my mind.
--- Jeane (Miller) Mader, West Columbia, SC. 21 July, 2008
Our family went to Puritas Springs Park on a regular basis. My older twin brothers broke their arms roller skating and my other older brother cracked his head! But most of my memories come from the time the park was closed. A development went in and my parents built a brand new house. Our back yard overlooked the gully where the coaster went down. My Dad built our back fence and part of our patio out of wood from the coaster! What wonderful memories I have of the area. The Gooding house, where the park owners used to live, was bought by the Petrus's. It had an enormous mural on one of the walls. There was a little bridge over the gully and I received one of my first kisses on that bridge! The Hitchcock tree was one of coolest things to see at dusk. Puritas Hill was a real doozey on a bike and killer on the way back up. Ahhhh, thanks for the memories! I may have some pics, when I find them I will forward them to you.
--- Sandra Bees-Marr, Mount Clemens, MI. 18 June 2008
Puritas Springs Park, Captain
Penny, Jungle Larry & Safari Jane Fondly Remembered by West Parkers
Jungle Larry & Safari Jane at Puritas Springs Park
this special message concerning Captain Penny:
--- Nancy Jane Tetzlaff Berens – “Safari Jane” 9 June 2008
Interview with Joyce Behrendt Biddulph of
Puritas Spring Park
"I was born at
Cleveland City Hospital. I have a brother, Frank, and two sisters,
Beverly and Sharon.
--- Joyce Behrendt Biddulph, Kingston, GA. May 2008
friend Bev and I went to Puritas Springs Park regularly during the last
two or three years it was open. On Friday evenings and Sunday
afternoons we went roller skating at the park. We always ran to the Cyclone on
Fridays for the last ride of the night.
--- Donna Raba, North Ridgeville, OH. 14 February 2008
I was at Puritas Springs
Park whena guy stood up in the front car of the Cyclone, fell out, and
died. He was showing off to a couple of girls. Very sad.
--- Ken Dombey Jr., Daytona Beach, FL. 5 October 2007
I remember going to Puritas Springs and riding the Cyclone. When you went over the top and started down you weren't even on the track! We had a lot of fun there.
--- Kenneth Weiss, Cleveland, OH. 29 March 2007
I used to go to the skating rink at the Puritas Springs Park on Saturday with my friends. I remember walking to Puritas Avenue at West 140th and catching the bus. I believe its last stop was Puritas Springs where it did a turn-around and headed back. We would exit the bus and walk through the deserted park to the skating rink. There was always a crowd on Saturday. I recall the early skating session was 9 a.m. to noon.
Great rink! If I close my eyes I can still hear the organ playing and smell the popcorn and different mixture of odors that filled the building. After the session we would walk back through the park and the Cyclone was always in view, though it was no longer in use. Euclid Beach was the amusement park of choice from what I recall. I always wondered why Puritas Springs didn't do better.
--- Lou Diamond, Garland, TX. 28 February 2007
The Puritas Spring Cyclone was a real ride! I can remember that although I did not ride it too many times. My mother, though, was a frequent rider from early on. I can recall her telling me that there had been some accidents on the coaster years earlier. I thought it was pretty scary and only recall riding it a couple of times. When I was in the seventh or eighth grade at Our Lady of Angels we had a class picnic, or field trip, at the Puritas Springs Park just prior to summer vacation. I can remember some of the rides and also roller skating there as well.
--Dan Weber, Rancho Cordova, CA. 95670. 21 February 2007
My sister and aunt once pushed me out to Puritas Springs Park in a baby carriage. I don’t actually remember the trip but they used to tease me about it later. When I was older I used to ride the Cyclone coaster. People knew it was kind of a dangerous ride so we kids thought it was fun and daring.
--- Richard "Dick" R. Morrison, Cleveland, OH. 15 January2007
In the summer of 1955 my grandparents
celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary and many family members
traveled to Cleveland for the occasion. My mother’s cousin, who
was about 37, was a daring woman about 17 years older than I. She
had access to disposable cash which I did not have. She was from
Indiana, and was well aware of the Cyclone’s reputation. Her
husband was afraid of roller coasters but I had ridden the Cyclone from
time to time. Anyway, with her enthusiasm and ability to sponsor
more rides than I could ever have imagined, we rode the thing for what
seems like an hour.
--- Henry Kieffer, Lore City, OH. 2 December 2006.
I worked at Puritas Springs Park and ran every ride except the Cyclone. That Cyclone is still the fastest coaster I have ever ridden. You had to be 21 to operate that ride. Anyway, one day I was operating the ride we called the Salt and Pepper shaker. Can't remember its real name right now but it looked like two bullets on a long bar. It would go round and round but if you hit a certain switch it would also rotate up to a point where it was going around parallel to the ground. This time one of my good friends was in one of the bullets with his girlfriend. Normally when you hit that switch it made one complete revolution up and down, and then went back to the normal up and down rotation. Dummy me, when I had them rotating parallel to the ground, I flipped the switch thinking that would keep them rotating parallel continuously until I decided to let them down. Didn't work that way. As soon as I hit that switch the entire ride came crashing down against itself and the center pole. Fortunately, nobody was hurt but the ride was out of commission for 5 days. My friend thought it was all very funny not realizing he almost got killed.
--- Bob Stanton, North Las Vegas, NV. 22 September 2006
I loved roller-skating at Puritas Springs. There was nothing like skating to Ken Dombey on the organ! I skated to his music at Puritas Springs from 1940 through about 1949. He always played the most popular tunes of the day but then he would mix some others in. What made his music great was that he didn't blast it. The melody was there. Ken was a master of the keyboard. He had style. His music was mellow. For some of the waltzes at Puritas Springs, they would dim the lights. You could converse with a partner and skate at the same time. Many people skated at Puritas just because of Ken Dombey, not just the rink. I met my husband at Puritas Springs and still skated until about two years ago.
--- Lois A. Koff, Fairview Park, OH. 26 June 2007
I remember "Kid's Day" at Puritas Springs. My brother and I got into a competition riding the Cyclone. We rode it 72 times!
--- John M. McKain, Cleveland, OH. 29 May 2007
Go to the top for a brief history of Puritas Springs Park